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Separation Anxiety in Dogs

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Why Do Some Dogs Develop Separation Anxiety? continued...

Change of Guardian or Family

Being abandoned, surrendered to a shelter or given to a new guardian or family may be associated with separation anxiety.

Change in Schedule

An abrupt change in schedule in terms of when or how long a dog is left alone can trigger the development of separation anxiety. For example, if a dog’s guardian works from home and spends all day with his dog but then gets a new job that requires him to leave his dog alone for six or more hours at a time, the dog might develop separation anxiety because of that change.

Change in Residence

Moving to a new residence can trigger the development of separation anxiety.

Change in Household Membership

The sudden absence of a resident family member, either due to death or moving away, can trigger the development of separation anxiety.

Medical Problems to Rule Out First

Incontinence Caused by Medical Problems

Some dogs’ house soiling is caused by incontinence, a medical condition in which a dog “leaks” or voids his bladder. Dogs with incontinence problems often seem unaware that they’ve soiled. Sometimes they void urine while asleep. A number of medical issues-including a urinary tract infection, a weak sphincter caused by old age, hormone-related problems after spay surgery, bladder stones, diabetes, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, neurological problems and abnormalities of the genitalia-can cause urinary incontinence in dogs. Before attempting behavior modification for separation anxiety, please see your dog’s veterinarian to rule out medical issues.

Medications

There are a number of medications that can cause frequent urination and house soiling. If your dog takes any medications, please contact his veterinarian to find out whether or not they might contribute to his house-soiling problems.

Other Behavior Problems to Rule Out

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether a dog has separation anxiety or not. Some common behavior problems can cause similar symptoms. Before concluding that your dog has separation anxiety, it’s important to rule out the following behavior problems:

Submissive or Excitement Urination

Some dogs may urinate during greetings, play, physical contact or when being reprimanded or punished. Such dogs tend to display submissive postures during interactions, such as holding the tail low, flattening the ears back against the head, crouching or rolling over and exposing the belly. For more information about this problem, please see our article, Submissive Urination.  

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